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Screening New Airline Threats
A new threat of bomb attacks on trans-Atlantic passenger flights from England sent the world's aviation system into turmoil, sending dozens of airlines scrambling to redirect cargo out of one of the world's largest freight gateways and raising the specter of longer-term changes and new security directives.
The arrests of members of an alleged terror cell in the London area a month before the fifth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks sent threat alerts on both sides of the Atlantic to the maximum levels. And although the apparent bomb threat of catastrophic scale did not appear to cut short the airline industry's newly-resurgent travel business, the new restrictions threatened to tighten bellyhold capacity and provided a fresh and frightening reminder of aviation's prominent place as a target of terror.
British authorities detained 23 people in what they called "a plan by terrorists to cause untold death and destruction" by blowing up 10 U.S. passenger jets out of the United Kingdom.
British Airways canceled its shorthaul flights in the aftermath of the terror alert and had a moratorium for a time on accepting cargo. Lufthansa and other airlines routed freight to trucks for a time, shifting shipments to gateways on the continent for final transport.
Most cargo operations were back to normal within a week but tougher passenger screening and new curbs on carry-on materials meant far more handheld luggage would be put into belly space.
American Continental and United airlines said they greater checked baggage took away some cargo capacity in the days after the alert but that they expected to adjust in coming weeks.
Critics of cargo security, meantime, said the threat demonstrated gaping holes in aviation security and said they would revive efforts in the United States to require full physical screening of all cargo …